Empire Technology Prize for heating tall buildings in New York

The Empire Technology Prize seeks groundbreaking solutions to tackle the greatest single source of GHG emissions from New York’s tall buildings – heating.

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Each of up to 7 finalists will receive $250,000, with another $750,000 available in the first year plus help with installation costs, and a further $1m for the grand prize winner.

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The Empire Technology Prize was created to help tackle New York’s biggest climate challenge – buildings – which account for 70% of New York City’s GHG emissions and a third of the State’s. And it’s not just a New York problem. Buildings are the cause of 40% of global GHG emissions. The taller the building, the more complicated it is to decarbonize. It bears repeating: If we don’t decarbonize buildings, we don’t solve the climate crisis.

To focus the prize, we conducted extensive research with the real estate community, uncovering a critical area of need and market demand. Heating is the largest single source of buildings’ GHG emissions – over 30%. Heat pumps are a great solution for decarbonizing building heat, however existing technologies can be difficult to integrate into New York’s buildings. Most heat pumps work best with low temperature hot water distribution systems, however the majority of New York’s tall buildings operate on steam distribution (1B sqft), or high temperature hot water distribution (0.4B sqft).

New York needs new solutions that will help avoid expensive and disruptive installation: a new class of heat pumps that work with the existing steam or high temperature hot water infrastructure, and new distribution solutions that make it easier to adopt existing centralized low temperature heat pumps.

Solving this problem in New York alone is a $10B market, in the US $40B, and so that’s where we’re focusing the $10M Empire Technology Prize – on developing and demonstrating easy-to-install high temperature heat pumps or distribution systems for NY’s existing tall buildings.
There are two possible approaches:

  1. Centralized heat pumps that generate steam (219°F/104°C) or high temperature hot water (180°F/82°C)
  2. Distribution solutions that make it easier to adopt centralized low temperature heat pumps (≤120°F/49°C), without the need to remove existing distribution systems

To win, by the end of the 1 year program, teams must develop at least a tested prototype for a heating, or distribution system, that can be more easily installed than current solutions for existing New York State residential or commercial buildings 7 stories and higher. The solutions will be scored on their projected GHG reduction by 2040, ease of implementation in the NY market, and path to cost competitiveness. Read our minimum criteria and evaluation scorecard.

Finalists will have the opportunity to work with leading NY real estate owners to discuss pilot and demonstration sites in New York City and/or New York State. Our world class Demonstration Partners include: Columbia University, Fairstead, Empire State Realty Trust, L+M Development Partners, New York City Housing Authority, Tishman Speyer, and Vornado Realty Trust
Learn more about our Demonstration Partners.

After the application period closes on March 22, 2024, up to seven Finalists will be selected.

On acceptance into the prize: Each Finalist will receive $250,000.

During the 1 year prize program: Each Finalist will be eligible to receive up to an additional $750,000 as a milestone award.

$2M will be available to help offset the costs incurred by finalists and real estate partners in installing pilots and demonstrations in the New York market.

At the end of the 1-year prize program, the Winner will be awarded an additional $1M.

Who can apply: Any incorporated company with at least two full time employees is eligible to participate — from small startups to publicly traded corporations.

You can be based anywhere in the world, but your solution must demonstrate applicability to the New York City and/or State market.


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